Amidst the ever-growing number of restaurants along Emek Refaim, YoJa, located on the corner of Emile Zola and Emek Refaim, continues to be a popular choice for Jerusalem patrons. Distinct in its cuisine and décor, YoJa stands apart from the crowd. Its façade projects a feeling of serenity and calm, inviting prospective diners to enter and enjoy. A truly interesting and delectable culinary experience awaits you inside.
The foyer of YoJa, where we were greeted warmly, is flanked by shelves of Japanese sake on one side and various kinds of Japanese teas and Israeli wines on the other. A few steps up brings you into the forward dining area in full view of the open kitchen and the cooking “show” presented by three Chinese chefs. If you prefer a more private dining experience ask to be seated in the second room. During the warmer months one can also dine outside in YoJa’s beautiful, blooming garden, far from the hustle and bustle of Emek Refaim.
The menu is quite extensive and may baffle you with all the tempting choices. Don’t hesitate to ask the professional and friendly staff for advice. If you are dining with a group of friends (highly recommended in this restaurant) be adventurous and order several different dishes so you can savor the many tastes of YoJa.
Which is exactly what we did. Accompanied by warm Sake and Japanese Kirin beer, we opened our meal with two different kinds of sushi,
vegetarian and sea bass maki. Note that the sushi in YoJa is made with beet leaves instead of seaweed for Kashrut reasons. Not only was the sushi more flavorful, but the softer leaves made the sushi easier to eat. YoJa prides itself on its extensive sushi menu and encourages patrons to sample more than one kind. To that end one can order several pieces (16-46 NIS) or combination “karate belt” platters (i.e. white, yellow, brown or black belt ranging in price from 74-198 NIS). Well worth the taste.
We then moved on to Dim Sum, steamed Chinese dumplings, which are served with four different dipping sauces, sweet and sour, peanut, soy and scallion, and spicy ginger. The menu features beef, chicken or mushroom Dim Sum for 2-8 diners (22-39 NIS). We sampled the chicken and broccoli Dim Sum as well as the beef, date and pecan version. Both literally melted in our mouths.
Additionally, there are several soup options, including the popular Won Ton and Sweet and Sour Soup (24 NIS) as well as many different meat and vegetarian appetizers such as egg rolls, Chinese pancakes, tempura and chicken satay (24-41 NIS). If it’s a salad you crave, YoJa’s are unsurpassed. The combination of flavorful meats, crisp, fresh vegetables and tantalizing dressings make for a light, yet filling meal (49-57 NIS). Try the Chicken Teriyaki Salad, it’s my favorite.
Main courses, all served with a bowl of white rice, come hot, spicy, or sweet, with chicken, beef or tofu, stir fried with various vegetables in a variety of tangy and tasty sauces. Noodle dishes are made with egg or rice noodles, vegetarian or not, either spicy or sweet (52-63 NIS). House specialties include Peking Duck, Schezwan Steak, Grilled Chicken or YoJa Salmon (77-87 NIS). On the advice of our friendly waitress we sampled the Pad Thai Noodles, rice noodles with beef, carrots, bean sprouts, scallions and peanuts in a spicy chili sauce and the Sweetie which was battered chicken, string beans, zucchini and carrots in a honeyed soy sauce. We received excellent advice and enjoyed every bite.
Portions were very generous and you need not worry about going home hungry!
If you have a craving for a sweet ending to your meal try the Silken Apple, batter dipped
apple chunks drizzled with caramelized sugar syrup. Or try the sorbet, pareve cheesecake (tasting is believing!), chocolate mousse cake, or ice cream (26-31 NIS).
YoJa has an extensive take-out menu and will deliver anywhere in the city (there is a delivery fee). If you don’t mind stopping by to pick up your order they will have it ready at whatever time you specify. Co-owner Amnon Galo invites you to make your party or simcha at YoJa. The restaurant can accommodate up to 50 in the garden and up to 100 people utilizing both indoor and outdoor areas.
If you are looking for a different dining experience put YoJa at the top of your list. As evidenced by the packed house the night we were there, reservations are recommended. You won’t be sorry.